Nationality law: Wikis


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Nationality law is the branch of law concerned with the questions of nationality and citizenship, and how these statuses are transmitted, acquired, or lost.

By custom, states have the right to determine who its nationals and citizens are. Such determinations are usually made by custom, statutory law, or case law (precedent), or some combination. In some cases, determinations of nationality are also governed by public international law—for example, by treaties on statelessness and the European Convention on Nationality.

The rise in human migration between states has made nationality law more important and complex. Related topics include immigration law, refugee law, and political asylum law.



Nationality law in continental Europe is historically based upon the Napoleonic Code which established that for purposes of nationality, that of the father was primary. For many years, therefore, in Europe and in former European colonies, women could not transmit their nationality to their children born in wedlock (those children born outside of marriage could often acquire their mother's nationality as there were provisions so that no child would be stateless). Many of these laws have since been changed, with the Arab states being an exception. In some Arab states, women married to foreigners cannot transmit their nationality to their children.[1][2] Many countries also have provisions stating that native-born children of accredited foreign diplomatic staff/officers do not acquire that nationality.

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

  1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Today, nationality law is based either on jus soli or jus sanguinis, or on a combination of the two. Jus soli is the principle in which a child born in a country's territorial jurisdiction acquires that country's nationality (Ex: United States, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, France [including in its overseas dependencies]). In jus sanguinis, either the father or mother must normally be a citizen of the country in question in order for the child to be a citizen (e.g. Israel, Switzerland).

The state's jurisdiction (the lex domicilii in Conflict of Laws) for the purposes of defining status and capacity wherever he or she might travel outside the state's territory; in exchange, the individual is entitled to the state's protection, and to other rights as well. This is an aspect of the public policy of parens patriae and derives from the social contract. In the civil law systems of continental Europe, either the law of nationality (known as the lex patriae) or the law of the place of habitual residence is preferred to domicile as the test of a person's status and capacity.

Some countries do not permit dual nationality while others only allow a very limited form of dual citizenship (e.g. Indian nationality law, South African nationality law, Republic of China nationality law). A person who is not a national of any state is declared a stateless person.

In the United States, the term "national" usually means someone who has U.S. nationality, but not United States citizenship, by virtue of living in a U.S. territory. Though it applied to other U.S. territories in the past, today only residents of American Samoa and Swains Island are considered U.S. "nationals"; Congress has granted full citizenship to residents of the remaining territories. U.S. "nationals" have the same rights to enter, live, and work in the United States as citizens; voting rights are the only major difference. Legally, however (and in the broader sense), U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals; United States passports do not distinguish between citizens and non-citizen nationals, except that passports issued to the latter bear an endorsement stating that the holder is a U.S. national but not a citizen.

Nationality issues in post-colonial context

Often in post-colonial situations, sorting out the nationalities of settlers, colonists and subjects was difficult and often a highly politically-charged process, particularly in the United Kingdom and in so-called settler colonies of Africa, such as South Africa, Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), Uganda and Hong Kong. For example see History of British nationality law

Examples of nationality law (Citizenship) in specific countries



European Union

Non-European Union



Asia & the Middle East



See also


  1. ^ Women and The Nationality Problem in the Arab World,, April 30, 2008,, retrieved 2008-10-30 
  2. ^ "Lebanese women cannot independently pass citizenship to their children", Antiquated laws violate women's civil rights,, 27 August 2007,, retrieved 2008-10-30 


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